Diarrhea is a very common complaint at The East Meadow Veterinary Center. The approach to diagnosing the cause, as well as the treatment can vary widely depending on the age of the patient, the duration and severity of the diarrhea, as well as any other signs that may be present. Diarrhea from any cause results from excessive fecal water content, and is the most common sign of intestinal disease in the dog and cat. The first step for us to localize the disease process to the small or large intestine. This is accomplished by monitoring the patients defecation pattern and fecal characteristics. The reason this first step is important is because there can be different causes for diarrhea affecting particular sites of the intestines, as such, the diagnostic tests performed and initial therapy can vary.
Common causes for diarrhea include: dietary indiscretion (for example, when a dog raids the garbage can), intestinal parasites, bacterial overgrowth of the intestines, viral infection, and inflammatory bowel disease.
As stated above, the approach to treatment can vary depending on a number of factors. If the diarrhea has just started, and there are no other signs of illness present, many cases of diarrhea will resolve on their own with the use of a bland diet. However, I would recommend an examination if the diarrhea is not resolving within a day or two or other signs are present, such as loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, and/or weight loss.